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Literature / Hurting Distance

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Hurting Distance is the second novel in the Spilling Series by Sophie Hannah.

Three years ago, something terrible happened to Naomi Jenkins – so terrible that she never told anybody.Now Naomi has another secret – the man she has fallen passionately in love with, unhappily married Robert Haworth. When Robert vanishes without trace, Naomi knows he must have come to harm. But the police are less convinced, particularly when Robert’s wife insists he is not missing. In desperation, Naomi has a crazy idea. If she can’t persuade the police that Robert is in danger, perhaps she can convince them that he is a danger to others. Then they will have to look for him – urgently. Naomi knows how to describe in detail the actions of a psychopath. All she needs to do is dig up her own troubled past . . .

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This work contains examples of:

  • Asshole Victim: After Robert reveals the Awful Truth to Juliet, she responds by bashing him over the head with a heavy stone doorstopper, cracking his skull, and leaving him to stew in his own blood and waste for three days until the police find him. Then he's taken to hospital where he has a brain haemorrhage, has several fits and then has to listen to Naomi laying out what a terrible person he is and how even after everything he's done, his victims will survive and get over what he's done to them, while he certainly won't.
    • Graham ends up being impaled in the eye, then thrown in prison for the rest of his life, knowing his younger brother, whom he genuinely loves, has been killed by one of the women he raped.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Steph comments that Graham is very protective of his little brother, even if they've gone for months without speaking.
    • Charlie doesn't always get on with Olivia, but she objects repeatedly when Graham keeps calling her fat and worries about her after she storms out of Silver Brae Chalets.
  • Broken Bird: Robert tells Naomi that Juliet isn't capable of coping for long periods without him to explain why he is so reluctant to leave her. Naomi herself certainly counts after what she's been through, though she masks it by being a Stepford Snarker.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Juliet's pottery houses prove to be vitally important later on in the book.
  • Declaration of Protection: Simon, upon realising that Graham might very well be waiting for Charlie in her house, demands that Olivia stay away from there, and the narration states that if Simon cannot protect Charlie at the current moment, then he will at least protect her sister.
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  • Early Installment Weirdness: Occurs in-universe, as Tanya the waitress in Cardiff who posted on the website does not fit with the pattern of women being abducted and raped. That's because she was an "experiment" between Graham and Robert and their first victim.
  • Embarrassing Nickname: Olivia brings up Charlie's during an angry rant, telling her she's ruined their holiday by becoming "Tyrannosaurus Sex."
  • Eye Scream: Graham ends up impaling his eye on the wooden corner of a chair, permanently losing it. Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy.
  • Fatal Flaw: As Naomi points out in her final speech to Robert, he severely underestimated the inner strength of someone who has been through trauma. He assumed his confession to Juliet would break her entirely - he definitely wasn't expecting her to fly into a rage and nearly bludgeon him to death.
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  • Friend Versus Lover: Naomi hasn't introduced Yvon and Robert properly because they don't like each other, with Yvon commenting Robert sounds like a control freak and Robert calling Yvon a chippie.
  • Irony: Naomi's determination to be seen as strong and keeping quiet about the rape means that she was a prime target for Robert, who wanted to move onto his next project after he'd married Juliet.
  • Kirk Summation: Naomi, in the finale:
    Naomi: You're the worst person I know, Robert. You're the worst person I'll ever know.
  • Line-of-Sight Name: Played for Drama - Charlie invents a boyfriend called Graham (after the cereal, Golden Grahams, which was in front of her at the time) to try and make Simon jealous. When she happens to run into a man in Scotland called Graham, she jumps at the chance to make it a reality.
  • Love Martyr: Naomi is like this towards Robert initially, obsessing over him, wanting him to leave his wife and marry her and becoming increasingly more paranoid when she doesn't hear from him. Yvon lampshades this when being interviewed by Gibbs and Sellers, "Naomi worships the ground that man walks on."
    • Steph towards Graham, sticking by his side even though he regularly cheats on her, belittles her and forced her into having sex in front of strangers when he had to make do instead of using a chosen victim.
  • My Nayme Is: Yvon's name is spelled like that because she chose her name when she was twelve and her parents let her. She explains that she hasn't gone back and corrected the spelling because she finds it an excellent exercise in humility.
  • The Nicknamer: Graham likes to give people nicknames - Charlie is "Sarge", Steph is "the Dogsbody" and Olivia is "Fatgirl Slim". The latter two nicknames hint that Graham isn't as nice as he lets on.
  • Not So Different: Naomi and Juliet are actually very similar, successful, driven businesswomen who both underwent extremely traumatic events. This was all done on purpose - Robert wanted to pick women he knew had been destroyed by Graham, so he could nurture them back to full health, only to destroy them with the knowledge that he is the brother of their rapist, and knew the whole time that they had been raped.
    • Ironically, Naomi and Steph are similar in that they are devoted to their partner, even if said partner is cheating on them in return. Naomi realises this and is disgusted to be anything like Steph.
  • Oh, Crap!: Naomi gets a major one when she enters Charlie's house and it turns out Graham was waiting for her there.
  • Operation: Jealousy: Charlie tries this with Simon by making up a boyfriend to try and make him jealous. Simon being Simon, it doesn't work.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Naomi releases an absolutely scorching one on Robert, who can do nothing but listen in silence. It's heavily implied that she kills him once she's finished.
  • Rich Idiot with No Day Job: Ben, Yvon's boyfriend, has never worked and will never have to because his parents are loaded, much to the disdain of Gibbs.
  • Serial Rapist: The man who abducted Naomi prior to the events of the book Graham Angilley and Robert Haworth, though Robert actually finds raping random women to not be challenging enough. He prefers to psychologically destroy them, instead.
  • Stepford Snarker: Naomi, who uses her strong-willed personality and barbed tongue to cope with the immense trauma she went through.
    • Juliet as well, who seems blithely unconcerned that she will go to prison for nearly murdering her husband, but this is an act to cover up her own shock and trauma.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Yvon designed the website for Silver Brae Chalets, and advised Graham (who was a friend of her dad's from university) to look at some of her previous websites for ideas. Two of which were websites she'd previously designed for Juliet and Naomi, thus inspiring Graham and Robert's "criteria" for victims. She is horrified at the discovery.
    • To a lesser extent, Simon casually mentioning the name Alice Fancourt to Charlie, which triggered her paranoia that Simon might get together with her after all, leading her to try and make him jealous by inventing a boyfriend called Graham...
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: A downplayed example with Naomi, but she's willing to tell some pretty outrageous lies about Robert to the police to make them look for him.
  • Woman Scorned: Juliet blugeons Robert's head in with a stone doorstep after finding out the truth but not the truth the police think - he confessed to being the brother of her rapist, knew about Juliet's rape the entire time and it's implied he raped her too.
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